Feature

Kick the cold naturally

Green Lifestyle magazine

If you’re struggling to kick a cold, try these cheap and easy natural remedies.

online-winter-health

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Are you battling the winter lurgy? The average Australian catches two or three bugs each year, but there is no cure for the common cold. Why? The common cold can be triggered by any of more than 200 viruses and despite the many wonderful advances of modern medicine, it’s impossible for scientists to find a cure for each virus.

That doesn’t stop us from spending more than $250 million each year on over-the-counter cold remedies even though there’s not a lot of clinical evidence that they work. Not to mention visits to the doctor for antibiotics, which treat infections rather than cold-causing viruses.

What scientists do know, however, is that your immune response determines the severity of cold symptoms, and aside from the obvious eco-paybacks, natural medicines offer a raft of immunity boosting benefits. Plus, a pantry chock full of the right fruits, vegetables, seeds and spices can help to reduce cold symptoms.

“Because a cold is brought on by a virus, there’s no cure,” says Eta Brand, president of the Australian Naturopathic Practitioners Association. “The goal is to try to make the symptoms more bearable.”

When it comes to reducing the severity and duration of a cold, vitamin C, zinc and echinacea have long been the poster children of the natural remedy movement.

Naturopath Helen Goodwin from Just for Today Living says vitamin C is a top performer because of its bioflavonoid component – a type of immunity boosting antioxidant that has an antibacterial and antibiotic effect in the body.

While echinacea is an effective short-term fix known to decrease the number of days you’ll feel under the weather, a safer, long-term option is the centuries-old Chinese medicine favourite, Astragalus root. “Echinacea is not a herb you should take long term,” says Goodwin. “It’s really for surface issues. If you have more than two colds a year, you’re better off with a deeper acting herb such as Astragalus root.”

Zinc helps with the development of immune system cells in the body, but like any vitamin or mineral, shouldn’t be supplemented unless you have a deficiency. To find out if you’re lacking, Goodwin recommends the liquid zinc test (try Ethical Nutrients; www.ethicalnutrients.com.au): “If liquid zinc has a strong taste, your zinc levels are very high. If it hardly has any taste at all, you’re zinc deficient. Take it until it tastes disgusting, then you know you’ve upped your levels.”

When it comes to your diet, there’s lots you can do to boost your immune system from the outside in. Vitamins A, C and E help to fight infections and are found in many common fruits and vegetables. Orange vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato are high in vitamin A, while citrus fruits, capsicum and cauliflower are some of the most common dietary sources of vitamin C. Sunflower and sesame seeds and oily fish such as sardines are high in vitamin E.

Brand recommends an immunity boosting cocktail of garlic, honey and ginger. “Make a mix of crushed garlic, honey and grated ginger and take teaspoons of that throughout the day,” she says. Circulation boosters such as ginger and cayenne pepper should form part of your under-the-weather diet, says Goodwin. “They help to keep the blood cells moving through your system so the immunity fighting, white blood cells can reach the periphery of your body.”

She estimates that 60-70 per cent of your immune system function is located in the digestive system, so it’s important to steer clear of heavy foods that are hard to digest, such as red meat. A soup of shitake mushrooms, ginger and garlic is a better option. “If you eat soup your body doesn’t have to work to digest and absorb it,” says Goodwin. Here’s to your winter wellness.